(From the Beatitudinal Podcase Episode # 5: Mind Series #5: God Still Speaks Today, Part 3)
Being attitudinal – to fiercely live a life of gratitude – is our mission. Last week, exploring how God speaks to us today, we looked at the mysterious phenomenon of scriptural emphasis, where words of verses of scripture are somehow emphasized to us in an impactful way. Continuing with this topic, our title this week is The Small Still Voice.
God not only speaks through the sacred scriptures of His Word, the Holy Bible, He not only speaks to us through highlighting those words or bringing them to our remembrance during prayer or ministry, but He also ‘speaks’ in an inexpressibly, reassuringly gentle, still ‘voice’. A ‘voice’ that is often perceived inaudibly as a gentle thought.
We are tying up the subject we’ve been on for the last few weeks – hearing God’s Voice. Our song for the week is “Speak to Me” by Remedy Drive, from their album “The Daylight EP”.
We have already considered and evaluated two other possible thought sources that present thoughts to our minds – neither of which is reliable; one is utterly unreliable and to be spurned outright (the diabolical). Today’s source is the sole utterly reliable source. It is the one voice that is entirely good, and always worthy of responsible, prudent trust – subject of course, to you having performed your due diligence to be as sure as you can – that it is that voice, that is.
Why do we need to be so, so careful, double-checking and discerning always? Because the enemy is a liar through and through – the father of lies (John 8:44), to whom lies are a native language (John 8:44, NIV Version). The enemy does not fight fair, and will not stop at masquerading as your voice, or even a representative of the Most High. It can masquerade, even transform itself into the vision of an ‘angel of light’ (2 Corinthinans 11: 14).
Having noted this, be clear that there is no need to be unduly worried about such mischief: remember, the Lord is Lord of all, in control of everything in existence, and you are under His care, all you need to do is sincerely request His protection and guidance (with a humble and teachable heart), and you’ve got it. Just vet the voice(s), subjecting it to the evaluative process we have previously discussed (Episodes1-4) as carefully as you reasonably can, remembering that God is a GOOD God (Mark 10:18), a loving Father. He is in the equation and will not stand by, arms crossed as it were, to allow the liar and thief the irreversible upper hand through such unfair tactics. In all things, trust in the good love and consideration of our Father God, must be the secret ingredient that spices up our expectations and conduct always.
Why Should We Expect, and How Do We Test This Voice?
Be assured that ‘hearing’ voices is not necessarily a symptom of mental illness. It is also a commonplace phenomenon that believing Christians expect, as the natural outworking of an intimately communicative relationship with the Almighty God Who happens also to be a Loving Father. It is thus in part an exercise of faith to be receptive to this voice, and receptiveness is thus encouraged because the perception of His voice is accordingly a way Christians believe, God has communicated with his people from ancient times.
There is the example of the little boy who grew up to become the Prophet Samuel. His Mom Hannah had difficulty in conceiving, and prayed anguished prayers for a child. When God granted her prayer, she dedicated the child – Samuel – to the Lord’s service, taking him to the Prophet Eli to be trained to serve in the temple. One night, Samuel heard a voice calling his name – thinking it was Eli, he ran to the prophet obediently, thinking Eli had called him:
So he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” And he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” And he went and lay down. Then the Lord called yet again, “Samuel!” So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” He answered, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” (Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him.) And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. So he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you did call me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” Then the Lord said to Samuel….: 1 Samuel 3:5-11
Then, there was Elijah, a prophet, who had delivered grim warnings to the rulers King Ahab and Queen Jezebel about the false prophets they were following. Ahab was a bit of a wuss – he was weak minded and petulant. His Queen was the real power behind the throne, and she called the shots. She was infuriated at the prophet’s words and sent him a threat that ‘so help me, if I do not have done to you what you have said about my prophets’. Elijah ran for his life, and physically exhausted and emotionally drained he sat under a tree and prayed to die. God however sent him reinforcements (I Kings 19: 5-8), and after he was somewhat refreshed (I Kings 19:8), went into a nearby cave. It was while he was in there that God said to him ‘what are you doing here, Elijah”. In response to Elijah’s whingeing complaint, the Lord said:
….“Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a]a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” I Kings 13: 11-13
The word of the Lord came to Elijah and said to him: “What are you doing here”, and “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord….” (I Kings 19: 9, 11, 13). Note that in the stirring account of the four spectacles – the wind, earthquake, fire and still whisper, Elijah, very experienced in hearing from God, was able to discern which was the Divine. It wasn’t the awe-inspiring displays of power – though God can, and does on occasion speak through that (Job 38:1), there was something about the stillness, the deep quietude that Elijah was able to recognize. Note how he held out patiently, alertly, discerning, assessing what he was seeing and hearing, until he heard the Divine in the stillness, rather than in the might.
Not for Prophets Only
There are many other examples. God has routinely spoken to His prophets through a spiritually perceived (see above), and sometimes an audibly heard voice (John 12: 28-30). Less frequently documented, but still not unusually, God also spoke to ordinary people He spoke, for example, to Cain (Genesis 4: 6-7), Abraham (Genesis 12: 1-10), Jacob (Genesis 35:1), and Saul (Acts 9: 4-6) to mention but a few.
It is a scripturally sound expectation that the Lord God Almighty – Who is also your Eternally Loving Father – will communicate with You. He has not left us unmoored, defenseless, like orphans (John 14: 18-21). He sent the Helper – the Holy Spirit (John 14: 26) – and dwells triunely in our hearts (John 14: 19, 23). It so makes sense therefore, that we should be able to communicate with our heavenly Abba. Abba is an Aramaic word which means ‘Daddy’ – an intimate, close way of referring to a Father. This is a two way, not a one way, exchange. Our model is the Lord Jesus – who routinely would separate Himself to pray, to hear from His Father and be refreshed (Luke 5: 16). He also encouraged us to do the same, by His example, and even in the way He taught us to pray (Luke 11:2)
Hearing Voices, Cause for Concern?
I am very aware as I speak, that to be so brave as to admit to hearing voices may raise concern or perhaps derision in some quarters. Concern in those who are firmly of the view that the hearing of voices is a symptom of some type of psychosis. While it may be that some forms of mental illness manifest in that way, it is neither the main, nor exclusive domain of mental instability.
Our human collective wisdom and received knowledge has from time immemorial, been seeded with the poison of self-aggrandizing motivated pride – we, as humans tend to believe that we are the end and end all of everything, and the repositories of the highest learning and wisdom.
The fight to separate science from religion was fierce. The stronghold of the church upon society began to unravel apace from the trial of Galileo who was deemed a heretic for defending Copernican astronomy. This was a significant turning point in the relationship between science and religion. I have previously mentioned the role of the Enlightenment in undermining the previously widespread faith and dependance on the Word of God. It popularized a shift to according reason sovereignty over anything to do with faith or spiritual belief – anything that cannot be empirically measured or proved. It led to the notion that the separation of church and state is crucial for liberty and justice. In this vein, the esteemed third (1901-1909) president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, even published a version of the bible in which he sought to excise all reference to miracles, visitations of angels, and the resurrection. He also tried to reduce the New Testament into a neutral ‘christian’ moral code.
The disciplines of science and medicine – name which you will – are certainly blessings, through which God may choose to work, but they are neither the filter, nor the ultimate authority of what is or is not sound thinking. It is God – including His Word – that is the Arbiter!!
I have also touched briefly on the category of believers that accept the Bible alone as the sole way in which God continues to speak today. Doubtless, the subject matter of this episode will be a concern to those of that persuasion. May the Lord touch us all – believers or otherwise – may He steer us away from errors, from unprofitable disputes, and lead us firmly by His light into His truth. Amen.
Concerning the derision of those that do not believe the Bible is historically or factually correct, let alone Divine, it is what it is. We have all been given the precious gift of choice. It is my choice to believe what God has revealed about Himself in His Word the Bible. ‘Let God be true and every man a liar (Romans 3:4). Unless and until such persons leave room in their heart to be convinced of the reality of God, there is no basis for a sensible discussion, and never the twain shall meet. Enough said!
The Small Still Voice Speaks Today Still
This is a fact testified to by innumerable contemporary believers. I
I also know this voice, and I am grateful for my Lord’s loving voice and guidance in my life.
I refer to a recent example from my personal archives The Uncooperative Computer.
There is an unfathomable sense of stillness to this voice; a bottomless peace, an immeasurable depth of wisdom, an all knowing timeless sense to it.
Note that this has nothing to do with the occult. It is not being psychic, it’s not channeling. It has nothing to do with being a medium, speaking with spirits, or opening yourself up to a formless vacuum. All such things are soundly denounced by the Bible: Deuteronomy 18: 10-12, Leviticus 20: 6, 1 Samuel 15: 23, Galatians 5: 19-21, Acts 16: 16-18.
While the other two sources – the soulish and the diabolical – manifest in myriad ways, there are some telltale differences. There is often an aggressively urgent, a pushy fell to diabolical thoughts. Soulish thoughts on the other hand, are sometimes accompanied by feelings of guilt or anxiety, however repressed. We have looked at the matter of distinguishing those two voices in more detail in previous episodes.
Hallmarks of the Still, Small Voice
In sum, what are the hallmarks of the still, small voice in contrast to a counterfeit? It:
- will never suggest anything contrary to Scripture
- is never aggressively pushy or invasive, though it may be gently insistent
- is never loud or overbearing and will fade away, and ultimately cease if disregarded
- has the effect of drawing one close to the Lord; the after effect is peaceful, relief, gratitude – a sense of having had an encounter with a Diving Presence, that being the Lord
- is distinct from your conscience – your every day internal referee – which too, can also be seared, and almost silenced by a stonily resistant heart
- often manifests unbidden, when least expected, though it may be heard in response to prayer or fasting
- is gently suggestive, rather than domineering or persistent. It will fade to silence or be replaced by the more voluble accusations of your guilty conscience if ignored.
- God has spoken to humankind from the beginning and has not stopped doing so. He does so in different ways, including by His small, still voice.
- Expecting to personally hear from God is a biblically sanctioned expectation.
- Discernment is an ongoing requirement for the safe exercise of this privilege.
- Test the spirits (1 John 4:1). Beware of imposter voices and guard against any involvement with the occult
- Our Father God is interested and lovingly prepared to communicate with us, not only in relation to weighty matters, but even in the minutae of our daily lives
- It’s not be force – it’s your choice to ignore or disobey His voice. The result however, will be an ensuing silence, or the nagging of your conscience.
May the Lord make us discerning and receptive to His voice.
Father, how reassuring it is again, to have it reiterated that You are not a remote, cold ‘god’, but a living, all powerful, fatherly deity. That you choose to speak with us, and have from the very beginning. That you – the almighty God, care about us as individuals as to speak to us individually and personally. How incredible to be able to cling to this truth, that we are not alone, and that we never have been. That we do not have to figure out this often baffling life out all by ourselves – that we can turn to, and hear from you, for wisdom as to how to live. Hallowed be Your Loving Name. We are so grateful for Your presence, and your faithful kindness.
Thank you also that there are tried and true ways to discern Your voice from imposters – from our flesh, from the enemy. Father, give us the conscientiousness to care enough to be carefully discerning, to be resolutely concerned to not be easily deceived. Sharpen our focus and our ability to accurately discern Your voice from others.
Father, thank you for giving us the grounds to be able to push back at the widespread notion that hearing voices is a sign of mental illness, or of being demonized, or simply subject to hallucinations. Lord, thank You that we have Your assurance that You have given us power, might, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1: 7). That we can continue to press in towards a deeper intimacy with You, without being frightened that we are being delusional or losing our minds. Father, give us balance, and a sound foundation that we may never become prey to charlatans, spiritual wolves, or rooming dark influences, that we may become on the contrary, stronger, and more mature in Your ways. Give us the confidence to press through skepticism, embarrassment or undue expectations.
Father, for those who have had a brush with mental illness, are mentally ill, or have a strain of mental weakness in their ancestry, we request deliverance and complete healing. We request that they also be set free, to live with the sound mind that You give and deliverance from fear (Romans 8:15) and anxiety (Philippians 4: 6-7) that You alone can give. Father there are several accounts in Your word of where You set people free from mental illnesses they suffered because they were epileptic (Mark 9: 15-18), psychotic (Luke 8: 26-32) and/or demonized (Acts 16: 16-19). We request, covered by the blood of our Lord Jesus, deliverance and healing from every form of mental instability and every defect, whether purely psychological, or based in ascertainable physical defects.
Lord, we submit to Your Divine Perfection. We acknowledge that You are Lord, and we merely Your beloved creatures, endowed with the incredible compliment of being formed in Your image. We thank you for the gifts of science and medicine, of all the disciplines that you have permitted to develop through the intellectual and observational abilities of humankind, that have led to tremendous discoveries and developments in our world. Help us never to put these finite, necessarily limited fruits of human endeavor ahead of You.
For in Jesus Name we have prayed, Amen.